Feature Article from the Orange County Ledger-Times An Inquiry into Mall Magic :

A Feature Story in Five Parts

November 11, 1999: The Shop Across the Mall:

In yesterday's account, I related my first encounter at the Bet Your Life shop in Huntington Mall.  As I found my way back to the car, I realized that I still didn't know much about Annabelle Thompson's Bet Your Life insurance. Of course the odds could be computed somehow, but like any other computer result, there had to be input. Whether the input could translate into numbers that predicted events--the customers seemed to think so.

Four thousand dollars was a little rich for my blood; Annabelle might have guessed that.

But, before I signed on the dotted line, I decided to speak with Louise and Joe Poole, the proprietors of the nearby cheese shop--the ones who perhaps supplied Annabelle with her snacks.

I went in around noon the next day when the free samples would be out. Louise was eager to talk about the unruly crowds at Bet Your Life.

"I was terrified." She said. "Me and Annabelle were real close when she opened the shop. I even offered to help her do something with her display window. "

We were joined right away by her husband, Joe, who offered a different view.

"It's a gold mine," he assured me. "Gold for her, gold for us. Hell, we can put up with a mob now and then, if they have money in their pockets and buy."

"She said it was too expensive to do the window when she opened," Louise went on, "but now she could." I asked them about the product--Annabelle Thompson's product.

"Well, Annabelle and I used to go for coffee at the Copper Penny. She told me all about it." For weeks Annabelle didn't have one customer. Then, it started with Louise's niece, Nikki. She was part of a group of girls from Bolsa High who were trying out for cheerleader. In the mall one day, they decided to take advantage of the services of Bet Your Life because of the surety that some of them would not be selected for the squad.

"Nikki was first--she practically haunts this mall anyway, and she'd seen the store, and, you know, since she thought she wouldn't make cheerleader--she had gained ten more pounds over the winter--figured she might as well have money for new clothes."

Hundreds of other kids from Bolsa and Huntington Beach high had followed Nikki and the other cheerleaders though the door at Bet Your Life. Louise prides herself on being quick to admit she was wrong.

Joe had believed in the product right away.  "It's the idea that will sell, I said that at the beginning," he maintained. I asked him how it worked.

"Insurance." He said. "Nikki paid twenty dollars. And she didn't make cheerleader. But she won five hundred dollars in gift certificates to the stores."

Louise made a sign with her hands of rifling through bills.

I wondered aloud how Annabelle made any money this way.

"It's all done on the computer." Louise said.

Neither Louise nor Joe have become Bet Your Life customers, yet. But Joe did mention that he would "be happy to take out insurance against the shop going out of business."